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Advantages to college honors program?


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My youngest has been invited to apply to a couple of honors programs and he's dragging his feet. He says he's weighing the cost (extra-curricular events and service projects) vs the benefit (classes available). I've given him the additional benefits of priority registration for classes and graduating with honors. What advantages have you found? Any additional things we are not considering?

Thanks,

Karen

 
 
 
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My second ds is in an honors program at a huge university. He gets to register the first time slot registration opens after the athletes (who go first). This has been awesome. He gets exactly what he wants with no problem. He lives in an honors LLC but he will move off campus next year. There are special social and educational events but ds is not into those. He is not a joiner in general and he prefers to work an actual paying job than to volunteer or participate in student groups/outings, etc. I wish he was more into those things but it just isn't him. So, the only thing he really takes advantage of is the priority registration. But in his case, that alone has been worth it. Also, his honors program has some agreements with grad schools for early or guaranteed admission. (For example, if he has a 3.5 and certain LSAT score he gets guaranteed admission and scholarship to a law school they have an agreement after just three years of undergrad). So, there are some benefits that are unique to each program and they are all different. A more ambitious student than mine would benefit more than mine has (well...ds is very ambitious but pragmatic I guess. He aggressively pursues his grades and career related stuff but not interested in anything he doesn't see as directly beneficial to him.)

The honors program has some requirements that my ds really isn't keen on meeting (an international experience and some community service) so I expect he'll end up dropping out of the program before graduation when the deadlines come for those requirements. 

I do think certain majors get more benefit than others. His is almost all pre-med majors (ds is business) and I think there is alot for those students in research and advising. The required honors courses are generally easy As. It seems as if those are meant to be a little buffer for students trying for med school with an otherwise really heavy course load. 

I'm really glad ds started out in honors but I'm fine with him dropping out when he has exhausted the benefit it offers him. My oldest ds didn't do honors at his school even though he is a top student there and I can't imagine what he has missed out on. He's had a fantastic experience with all kinds of opportunities but it is a school of less than 1500 so it was easier for him to make his way and stand out without an honors program. 

Ds in honors has two advisors, one in his major and one for honors. I liked the idea that while navigating a huge university he had two resources to go to for advising and he has kind of a double check that he is taking the right classes, etc. Again, that was an added benefit in my mind but as he moves through his academic career it will be less necessary. 

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Especially in a large Public university, I believe there are more "pros" than "cons.  For example, at Texas Tech University the classes for Honors students are limited to 20 or 25 students. I forget the number. The Housing is usually better. The Mentoring and Research Opportunities are IMO extremely helpful to the students.  

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Thanks guys, these are all very helpful. 

Quote

BUT HOnors college, IMO doesn't seem to be right for STEM majors.  Most of the special class, events, discussions, etc. revolve around spending a lot of extra time with literature and history.

 

I saw your response to this 8FillTheHeart, but I think that it is one of his underlying motives to avoid applying.He goes to a classical Christian high school and Lord willing he is heading to an Engineering program at whatever college he lands at. He's tired of the liberal arts. He does well with history and literature, he plays the piano well and enjoys classical music, but he's told me a few times he just wants to do math and science. He also has a fear of the unknown. He's only 16 yo and I really think this is a place where his father and I need to push him out of his comfort zone. I guess I was looking for validation, that it is worth it. 

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3 hours ago, Karenciavo said:

Thanks guys, these are all very helpful. 

 

I saw your response to this 8FillTheHeart, but I think that it is one of his underlying motives to avoid applying.He goes to a classical Christian high school and Lord willing he is heading to an Engineering program at whatever college he lands at. He's tired of the liberal arts. He does well with history and literature, he plays the piano well and enjoys classical music, but he's told me a few times he just wants to do math and science. He also has a fear of the unknown. He's only 16 yo and I really think this is a place where his father and I need to push him out of his comfort zone. I guess I was looking for validation, that it is worth it. 

I agree with @GoodGrief1 It really depends on the program.  Where our oldest attended, the HC didn't offer much of a benefit, including no extra $$.   Where youngest ds attended, the specialized honors program was research-focused (and he got an extra scholarship).  His program was also dominated by STEM students (ds's best friends in the program were engineering majors.)  You need to investigate to see what it specifically offers.

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4 hours ago, lmrich said:

At a large university registering for classes is a BIG deal!

That is true and one of the big reasons my dd decided to apply and go with the honors college at her big university, however, so far it has not been a great benefit. The honors college at this university is huge too, and she still can't always get in to the classes she wants. I should add that this is her first year and she will gain more seniority as she goes on, so it may improve. Honors classes so far, again limited experience, have been ok but not great, and unfortunately there are very limited upper level honors classes in her major, so meeting the requirements may prove tricky. She tried to get 3 honors classes this semester, to try and front load them, but could only get into 2. Not sure how this will all pan out for her. She did get an extra honors college scholarship, which does have a few other benefits too, but we're not necessarily feeling the love at the moment.


 
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For my oldest, the honors program has meant several things:

1. Priority registration (which can be a big deal)

2. Honors classes with other smart, talented kids who are interested and engaged in learning (this has been huge, the discussions are better, the depth of the classes are better)

3. Research requirements - students are required to do a research project their junior year and present results in their senior year. She has already done one research project (different major) and been published and presented the paper at a technical conference. She will is working on another research project and have to present those results at least to her local college - with possibilities of further presenting/publishing. This is also nice is that you are building relationship with professors and getting a leg up on graduate school admissions.

4. Scholarship. It helps

5. Opportunities - they do several events ~4 times per semester - some are great, some are okay. 

Things I wish it had - housing just for the honors students. I think that would be nice - at least the first year. 

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My oldest declined honors program at her college.  She was electrical engineering, comp sci (and math too).  She graduated summa cum laude by the way and still had plenty of opportunities. Her reasons for not going in the honors program was all about having to do a few extra liberal arts classes in topics that did not interest her.  It was a small enough college and engineering program that registration early was not an issue for anyone. The housing should have been incentive and one year she was on the honors floor due to other reasons (she was supposed to be on the STEM floor, but there wasn't space at freshman year assignments. Then she wanted a single in the older yuckier dorm all to herself with no suitemates. (weird, I know. I know).  All of the engineering students had research opportunities and could attend the professional conferences.  Many of them got published in journals.  They had all senior seminar to do. The "honors" students just had to do an extra paper or something.  No extra scholarship money in it. She had a social life and access to events.

With that said, if she had gone to the state university instead of the private, she might have had to do honors to be with others engaged in learning. It just wasn't needed at the smaller place.

I don't think she has regretted her decision. It was individual needs and what the program involved and did and did not offer  Her name was still featured a lot in the graduation ceremonies and special awards without it.  I think she once told me that many start that program, but most drop out of it.

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My oldest has loved his Engineering Honor College.  Benefits for him have been nicer dorms, smaller classes in the dorm, weekend retreats, special dinners and things like the program rented a movie theatre to allow them all to watch Geeky movies.  Priority registration has been huge, but the best thing has been an amazing community of like minded, super smart kids.  He’s made life long friendships. 

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Ds joined first and foremost for the new dorms. They were really nice!   The other perks were smaller class sizes, opportunities to interact with faculty and guests, and priority registration.  No extra money was offered.  The real perks though were the friendships he made and the advising he received through the Honors College.  He's a STEM major and besides general studies requirements no liberal arts classes were required.  

 

 

 

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On 1/22/2019 at 12:44 PM, Karenciavo said:

Thanks guys, these are all very helpful. 

 

I saw your response to this 8FillTheHeart, but I think that it is one of his underlying motives to avoid applying.He goes to a classical Christian high school and Lord willing he is heading to an Engineering program at whatever college he lands at. He's tired of the liberal arts. He does well with history and literature, he plays the piano well and enjoys classical music, but he's told me a few times he just wants to do math and science. He also has a fear of the unknown. He's only 16 yo and I really think this is a place where his father and I need to push him out of his comfort zone. I guess I was looking for validation, that it is worth it. 

M

Edited by Frances
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19 hours ago, Karenciavo said:

Thanks guys, these are all very helpful. 

 

I saw your response to this 8FillTheHeart, but I think that it is one of his underlying motives to avoid applying.He goes to a classical Christian high school and Lord willing he is heading to an Engineering program at whatever college he lands at. He's tired of the liberal arts. He does well with history and literature, he plays the piano well and enjoys classical music, but he's told me a few times he just wants to do math and science. He also has a fear of the unknown. He's only 16 yo and I really think this is a place where his father and I need to push him out of his comfort zone. I guess I was looking for validation, that it is worth it. 

My DS is currently in CS at a major public university and he is in the honors college. He CLEP'ed out of Spanish and US Gov and US History and AP'ed out of English Comp so the Honors seminars that he's required to take are his only humanities. They drive him crazy because he'd prefer to be in all CS or math or physics classes LOL

BUT - he did tell me that being in the Honors college was worth its weight in gold when it came to priority registration. He *has* to work ~15 hours a week in order to pay for school, and if he wasn't able to pick and choose his class times he wouldn't be able to work at all (it's an 8-5 office job doing programming, so no evening or weekend hours available).

He is hoping at some point to be able to join the CS honors program and drop out of the all university Honors College, but that is only open to upperclassmen and is by invitation only. It also comes with priority registration perks. That's a possibility for your DS to consider as well.

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I think this can really vary by program/school.  My son was offered honors at our flagship in the liberal arts college just with  a regular application (no extra hoop jumping) and he has guaranteed housing in the honors LLC until May.  The school has guaranteed freshman housing if you sign on my May 1 but no other location guarantees.  That alone makes it worthwhile IMO even if he ends up not jumping through all the other hoops and graduating with honors. 

I graduated from the engineering college at the same big ten school and many kids in that school choose not to do honors.  They do have honors sections classes throughout different subject areas - not just humanities.  But the courses and sequences of that school are very prescribed and the average ACT is 31-34 in that college and they have their own LLC for freshman and sophomores anyway.  So really not as much benefit.  All the students in the engineering school really are "honors" level students.  This is a big 10 schools of 50K+ so I do think for freshman it can help make the school a bit smaller to have a subgroup out of the gate.

My son in the liberal arts college I think may do better socially in the honors LLC the first year while he finds his people.  That dorm is in the same part of campus as the programs he is interested in too.  He is an academic high flyer in that school and has been offered unusual merit money too.  

That said, he was invited to APPLY for honors at another school after acceptance.  He might yet, but we're going to go visit one more time, look at housing, etc.  He needs to write 3 essays for that one (ugh!) , there's no honors dorm option, the hoops may be annoying for the majors he is looking at, etc.  

 

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Oldest did Honors at Hillsdale. The seminars were tough as they conflicted with orchestra, but the ones she could make were fantastic. The pros were the pre-freshman retreat, the higher level Honors sections of Freshmen Rhetoric and the Great Books (required for all freshmen), and regular dinners, but the biggie was the 6 week long trip to Greece, Turkey, and Italy to the beginnings of the New Testament churches, all paid for by the school. Ds wasn't interested in the Honors program, and middle dd dropped hers when she saw the amount of reading. She was too busy with AROTC. 

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The benefits for my ds’s program (leadership vs honors) have been scholarship money, early registration (very important at his school!), better housing, being grouped with the more serious students, being forced to join a club and to find volunteer work (which he loves, but wouldn’t have likely done without being required to).  The only downside from my point of view is that he has to minor in leadership studies which puts an extra academic burden on him and removes the possibility of him minoring in something else that might be more useful to him.

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